Rail Minister reaches the end of the line as Tory election exodus grows: Huw Merriman becomes latest senior figure to step down on July 4 following departure of former PM Theresa May and three ex-chancellors amid fears for hundreds of seats

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Rail Minister Huw Merriman became the latest Tory big-hitter to announce they are walking away at the general election amid fears over the part's chances of winning.

Huw Merriman confirmed he would not contest Bexhill and Battle, the East Sussex seat he has held since 2015.

He is one of four Tories to step down today, meaning 69 have now said they will not seek re-election.

Among them is also Dame Eleanor Laing, one of the Deputy Speakers of the House of  Commons and a former shadow minister, who has been MP for Epping Forest in Essex since 1997.

They join a number of senior Conservatives who are stepping away from frontline politics on July 4 amid fears hundreds of Conservative MPs could lose their seats.

They include ex-PM Theresa May and three former chancellors, Sajid Javid, Nadhim Zahawi and Kwasi Kwarteng.

Dominic Raab, the former deputy prime minister and foreign secretary has also far decided not to contest the election.

COP26 president Sir Alok Sharma, current Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and ex-health secretary Matt Hancock - now an independent are also passing on the political baton.

More than 100 from across all parties have already decided to bow out. And with MPs now having only until June 7 to decide whether they will stand or not, all eyes will be on the remaining big beasts to see whether they will fight or flee.

Many Tories in marginal seats the North and Midlands have already decided to stand down rather than risk being defeated. But a large number of MPs in more affluent seats in the South are also calling it a day.

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Huw Merriman confirmed he would not contest Bexhill and Battle, the East Sussex seat he has held since 2015.

Huw Merriman confirmed he would not contest Bexhill and Battle, the East Sussex seat he has held since 2015.

Dame Eleanor Laing, one of the Deputy Speakers of the Commons, became the latest to step down this afternoon, confirming she would not contest her Epping Forest seat in Essex.

Dame Eleanor Laing, one of the Deputy Speakers of the Commons, became the latest to step down this afternoon, confirming she would not contest her Epping Forest seat in Essex.

Mr Merriman did not specify a reason for his departure but thanked his staff, local Conservative association and the Prime Minister, and paid tribute to his constituency.

In a letter posted on X, he wrote: 'I wish my successor well in their role as Member of Parliament.

'To both the next MP for Bexhill and Battle and to a future rail minister: if these roles bring even half the amount of happiness as they have brought me, then it will make you very proud.'

In a transport-themed sign-off, he added: 'Thank you to all of the amazing people I have met on my journey. I will miss everything but, as I sit in the political departure lounge, I am looking forward to a new journey (whatever that might be).'

Suffolk MP Jo Churchill and Leigh's James Grundy also quit today. Mr Grundy became the first non-Labour MP for the seat in Greater Manchester in a century in 2019.

In a statement on his website he said: 'I have spoken before about the death threats aimed at my elderly parents after the Gaza debate, seen a colleague murdered, seen another have his office burned down and others either stepping down or changing constituencies due to harassment and abuse, to give just some examples during this Parliament.

Nadhim Zahawi
Theresa May

Theresa May and former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi are standing down in July

Dominic Raab
Sajid Javid

Former senior ministers Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid are also quitting

[video_shortcode_video_html_5 src="https://videos.dailymail.co.uk/video/mol/2024/05/23/4034925142217345973/1024x576_MP4_4034925142217345973.mp4" itemprop="image" content="https://videos.dailymail.co.uk/video/mol/2024/05/23/4034925142217345973/1024x576_MP4_4034925142217345973.mp4" data-src="https://videos.dailymail.co.uk/video/mol/2024/05/23/4034925142217345973/1024x576_MP4_4034925142217345973.mp4"]

'This not healthy for our national politics and needs to change, and with that in mind I have decided not to seek re-election.'

On the other side, Mother of the House Harriet Harman, 73, is the most experienced of some 20 Labour MPs to be standing down.

The group also includes ex-Foreign Secretary Dame Margaret Beckett and ex-Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw.

Labour's deputy chief whip Holly Lynch became the 103rd MP to announce her decision not to contest her seat last night.

Nine SNP MPs announced they will not contest their seats, along with seven independents, two from Sinn Fein, one from Plaid Cymru and the Green Party's sole MP, Caroline Lucas.

The future of some legislators is still unknown.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been barred from standing for the party in his Islington North seat, but has not yet announced whether he will run as an independent.

Ahead of the 2019 election, 74 MPs chose not to contest their seats again.

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